No. 18 March Term, 1978, Appeal from the Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Criminal Division, at Criminal Action No. 134 of 1977, dated January 13, 1978.
Thomas P. Ruane, Jr., Public Defender, Uniontown, for appellant.
Gerald R. Solomon, Dist. Atty., Uniontown, for appellee.
O'Brien, C. J., Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Wilkinson, Flaherty, and Kauffman, JJ. Eagen, former C. J., and Manderino, former J., did not participate in the decision of this case.
This is an appeal from a judgment of sentence of life imprisonment imposed on a jury verdict of guilty of murder of the first degree. At oral argument, heard on March 9, 1979, it was revealed that penal authorities had committed appellant to a mental institution after conviction. By order dated March 27, 1979, this Court remanded the record of the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County for an evidentiary hearing on the competency of appellant at the time of trial as well as sentencing. On remand, the court of common pleas considered appellant's competency only at the time of trial. On August 16, 1979, this Court remanded the record for a determination of appellant's competency at the time of sentencing. That determination was made on March 30, 1981, and this matter is now ready for decision.
The incident giving rise to the present prosecution and conviction occurred outside Uniontown, Pennsylvania, on the evening of January 27, 1977. The victim, Gerald McGifford, died after he had been shot in the head at close range. Uniontown Police found the victim's body on the night of the shooting after Barbara Maise, eyewitness and girlfriend of the victim, had reported the incident. Appellant was located the following evening in Pittsburgh, taken into police custody, and charged with criminal homicide, including murder of the first degree. Appellant gave police a statement.
Appellant was tried before a jury during the week of June 6, 1977. At trial, the Commonwealth sought to establish an intentional killing primarily through the testimony of eyewitness Maise. Maise testified that on the evening of the shooting she, appellant, and the victim had been riding in her car in the Uniontown area. Maise stated that, before the shooting, while the car was stopped and the victim was out of the car, appellant asked her, "Do you want me to hurt that punk?" According to Maise, the three later stopped the car in front of a private residence where appellant was
going to borrow money. She testified that, before going into the house, appellant shot the victim. Maise testified that, after the shooting,
"Melvin [(appellant)] told me to get in the back seat and lay down and shut my mouth, or I would get the same thing -- so I got in the back seat, and I started asking him, why he did it, and he kept saying 'I am the boss. I am the devil.' He said, 'Gerald ...